Monday, November 29, 2010

Poultry Wars

Some of last year's produce
What  happened to my lovely vegetable garden? Last winter I was rolling in produce - green beans, snow peas, too much chard, carrots, spinach - all of it. This year - nada! I lovingly turned over the dirt, added specially purchased worm casings and organic fertilizer, carefully practiced crop rotation and set the water timers. When we came back after several weeks nothing had grown.

June/Elena the Gardener
There were a few seedlings bravely struggling along, but mostly, nothing had come up. Why? No idea. So once again I prepared the soil and replanted and carefully took all the steps to insure a bumper crop. When we came back again, only a few more stragglers had sprouted.

Mother Beet of the Universe from last year's garden
After the third planting, We finally caught the culprits red-beaked. It was some neigborhood chickens! These feisty, wiry little garden-disposal units came over the 7 foot garden wall and pecked through everything as it came up. The stealth raiders came at dawn and dusk. I would get up at 5:30 AM and hear the telltale clucking outside. As quietly as I could at that hour, I charged outside and hurled rocks and obscenities in several languages."Malditos pollos!" "Verfluche Schweinhund!" "Danged chickens!" Amidst flapping and squawking the little buggers flew right over the wall.

Theorizing that chickens don't usually fly too high, we put three feet of chicken wire around the wall. Two days later, the hateful birds were back pecking at the garden. They flew right over the now 10 foot wall. I can't show you a picture, because now they flew at the very sight of me!

We began to joke about getting a gun - illegal in Mexico. About this time, our friend Lynn also had something eating her garden. She speculated that it was the iguanas - two exceptionally large lizards that lived in the area. She got Ramón to bring his BB gun - apparently legal - and he picked them off for her. Her garden grew.

Animal lover that I am, I have to admit that I did ask Ramón to come over, but he seemed more reluctant to shoot chickens. Dan, our neighbor, said if he caught one he'd slit its throat. But of course the trick was catching one of the two super-chickens.They could run and fly like crazy!

Dan mentioned to our neighbor Chuchico about the pests. Chuchico also confessed to the chickens bothering him and he suggested poison. He told us that often people have chickens but don't feed them, allowing them to scrounge. That way the eggs and meat are virtually free. Good for an impoverished family, I guess, but not so good for the surrounding neighbors. He identified the source of the chickens as a small white house around the corner from us. The people there  live very simply, and we doubted that they had the money to feed the birds.

We discussed the situation with various friends. Some told us to go to the owners and demand that they pay us for all the seeds their birds ate up.They told us we had a right to do that. We thought about it. If we did that, we would earn the reputation in the village of ugly Americans picking on poor people. Absolutely not worth it.

Back to the thought of chicken assassination. Tichi, Beto's mom, pretty much summed it up: it is not a good thing in Mexico to kill your neighbors' chickens. Then she giggled and told us how some naughty boys in her youth stole a neighbor's chicken and took it down to  the river bed and roasted it over an open fire. She thought it was quite the amusing prank, but not one to be repeated by presumably more mature adults. (Who? Us?)

 If we couldn't kill them, and nothing seemed to chase them off permanantly, the only solution was to build an anti-chicken cage - that is to surround the garden with chicken wire. This meant a trip to Hermosillo to the Home Depot. You already know how much I love  going to Hermosillo (NOT), but I did reluctantly go along for the cause. The war had to be won. I would not be outsmarted by two lousy chicken-brains.

The Anti-Chicken Coop
Over the next couple of days, Dan constructed a magnificent cage around the garden. It even has a roll-up door and is completely chicken proof. I replanted the garden a fourth time. By this time It was already pretty late in the season to plant a winter garden. So now, most things are actually growing, confirming that the chickens were indeed the problem. There's a hard freeze coming tonight. I hope none of the tender seedlings freeze!

Now I see the chickens scrounging in the road near our house. If they should get run over, I won't mourn their loss. Two days ago, our neighbor Dan gave me an early Christmas gift - a wrist-rocket slingshot! If I ever see those miserable birds in my yard again, they're gonna get it......


  1. You are one persistent farmer June/Elena! Those chickens better watch out! I like the way you told this story. I was totally engaged. The battle of the farmer and the chickens! Love it! Have fun and I hope the frost doesn't get those seedlings. What a great life isn't it? I want a garden!

  2. I am glad you found a workable solution. I have dealt with neighbor's animals from time to time here in Mérida, and have been tempted to do away with pesky animals a couple of times. I have resisited the temptation. However, that's what other neighbors often recommend or do..a little rat poison goes a long way. I have found dead animals in my yard, including cats, opossums and iguanas, over the past few years, and it appears that someof these may have been poisoning victims. I like your solution better.

  3. Merry Christmas to you and Dan June. Thanks for your supportive comments this past week. It has been a journey! So, we'll see you guys in 2011 somehow! Take care, stay warm and cozy and safe...Levonne, John and Gingee